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  • Dougie

There are no galleries in this space.

No galleries today. We are simply meeting people. Other people. Just not inside any great cultural institution (unless we're talking about the culture word in broad sociological terms in which case everything is culture ... although not everything is art).

We were meeting our friend Nicky for lunch in a pub in Westminster. The Blue Boar.

The English Pub is, of course, another great cultural institution. But I don't think we saw ourselves creating postmodern critical commentary on the death of narrative. Friends met, we ordered food and drink, we chatted (catching up on six years of bits and pieces of our lives). Sometimes, life is exactly what it says on the label (so to speak).

I had lentil shepherd's pie, Spike had Scottish trout and Nicky, chicken pie (of unidentified national origin). It was a meal, not a piece of conceptual or performative art.

Mind you ...

The last time we were here -- in 2016 -- there was an exhibit titled Monochrome Till Receipt (White) by Ceal Floyer hanging in the Tate Modern. It was a printed till receipt of a list of goods bought by the artist at a supermarket in England. The Tate points out that the paper is yellowish/beige and the ink is a sort of blue which somewhat undermines the "white" in the title. But who can say? Maybe not even the artist.

Whatever the artist's motivations, I smiled when I sat in front of Monochrome Till Receipt (White) in 2016; not in some self-aware, post-ironic wanky way. I just smiled because I liked it, hanging there on the wall in the Tate Modern. I cannot tell you why cos I do not know.

And none of that, of course, is what I'm here to write about. I get easily distracted. Sorry.

We had lunch with Nicky then she went back to work. We stayed a while longer to catch up with Spike's dad's brother. Then we left.

We wandered -- not quite as lonely as a cloud -- but in a relaxed, touristy way through the quintessential sights of London town: towards Westminster Abbey, passed Big Ben, trundled over Westminster Bridge, took a detour through Her Maj's (first) Jubilee Park beneath the London Eye thingo (which we 'did' in 2016 and felt no need to 'do' again).

I paused at the statue commemorating the International Brigade who went to Spain to fight heroically against Fascists. Sadly, though, they also fought among themselves in a great act of sectarian folly. That has always been an unpleasant weakness of the Left. From time to time we lose the sense of solidarity we profess to live by. And we do not always learn the lessons of our own history.

I lived in Tower Hamlets for a while when I worked in London. For a time (until his death) I became friends with and fellow political agitator alongside an older man called Sam. He was quiet and deeply committed to the failing project that we both supported. He had fought in Spain and never ever said much more about it other than that barest fact.

And then we carried on to the National Theatre where we saw a play, The Corn Is Green.

The current production is a revival of a 1938 semi-autobiographical play written by Emlyn Williams (who also directed and portrayed his fictional self in the original production). Crudely put, the story is a role-reversal Pygmalion (but without GBS's massive ego and tendency towards dogma).

The current version is beautifully staged with marvellous performances. It is warm and funny, deeply affecting and still has plenty to tell us about life and growth and change. It reminds us as well, however, that what we may gain in life comes at a cost at times; those other parts of us we must give up or lose or leave behind.

I am far from certain that I ever understood that the gain and loss equation truly is a law of existence. And I have made mistakes in life because I did not always think through some situations well enough. Now I am older but not -- in any way, shape, size or form -- wiser.

I loved this evening at the theatre with Spike. It brought home to me how much I miss such evenings. Like a greedy child, I want more.

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